By Monte Lazarus
The seismic shock arrived with the dinner check; in fact it was caused by the dinner check. We were in Copenhagen a few weeks ago, dining with dear friends at a hotel. I ordered white asparagus (“spargel”) as an appetizer – or so I thought. They arrived. Three thick spears with a bit of hollandaise sauce. They were wonderful. Wonderful, that is, until I saw the bill. U.S. $50! Yep, just about $18 a spear. My shock echoed around the table. “What’s wrong?” went the chorus. I showed the bill to wife and friends alike.
The shockwave spread and the tsunami followed. Panic followed as we realized that one very small dinner might bankrupt two families. “Must be something wrong,” I dimly heard through the pounding in my chest. “Let’s get our server and straighten it out” also penetrated.
Our lovely Danish lady approached. She was charming, but spoke little English. On the other side, the four of us had devoured Danish pastry aboard ship for 16 days, but understood not a single word of the language. “The bill,” I gurgled. Her answer was something clearly Scandinavian and apparently soothing. She departed after we attempted to reconcile the bill and its aftershock. Another tall, extremely attractive Danish lady approached. Apparently the Danes have figured out that, in times of crisis, you send in the A Team, consisting of the most stunning females on your staff. I have an image of a bevy of beautiful blondes in the restaurant’s office (like an aircraft carrier’s ready room) awaiting a call to action. The call comes over the intercom: “Problem at station four. It’s your turn, Inga.” With that announcement Inga, or equivalent, immediately swings into action to resolve any problem.
Unfortunately, because of the language barrier, Inga was not able to dispose of me or my problem easily. According to the explanation in broken English and Danish it appears that the server had written my order as a “dinner size” portion, not as an appetizer. I just could not visualize an appetizer size smaller than mine – maybe one-and-a-half-spears? It was hard to figure out, but my ever available credit card would break through the fog by simply covering the bill.
Just then my world turned bright; my dear friends ended my despair. “You know”, they reminded me, “in four days the world will end. According to an authority named Champing or something like that, on Saturday The Rapture is coming. The whole world will come to an end, time zone by time zone. Those of us who qualify will be on our way to heaven, although we don’t know about you. In your case it doesn’t matter where you wind up. The important thing is that all bills will be extinguished since there won’t be anyone to pay them, or even to process them. You are getting a free ride on the asparagus. Just sit back and enjoy yourselves. Come to think of it, let’s have some Dom Perignon to celebrate.” With that we asked for the dessert menu and ordered crème brulee.